The White Working Class: A Call to Social and Spiritual Unity, or Division? A Critique of the Book

Written By Thomas Perez. April 29, 2018 at 8:30PM. Copyright 2018.

America, is a nation of polarization. However, it’s polarization is nothing new under the sun. There has always been a divergence of ideological extremes in the past of some sort. But with the emergence of television, the internet and various social media sites like Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook; it seems to permeate our internal beliefs and hence promote various conflicts, both verbally and physically. We can now pick up an iPhone or sign into our favorite social websites and see the ideological differences and social class conflicts for ourselves at our disposal. This adds fuel to the fire of public opinions, divergence and the realization of where one precisely stands in reference to his or her financial status and attitudes concerning their own social class structure.

The book, ‘The White Working Class,’ originally published: May 16, 2017, depicts just that. It depicts a class differential between what Williams calls the “elite” (the Professional Managerial Elite – PME) and “White Working-Class” individuals. The book itself stems from a Harvard Business review essay the author started prior to the writing of her book – conducted on election night when (“I knew Trump was about to win the presidency,” Williams p15-16). This is motive. And it is because of this, Williams insists that (“class consciousness has been replaced by class cluelessness, and in some cases even class callousness,” Williams, p11-12). Williams describes this cluelessness as emblematic – seen in various sitcoms and cartoons like; ‘All in the Family,’ ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Married…With Children.’ All, who according to Williams, represent the working class. Her argument is that the white working-class is misunderstood because of such stereotypes.

However, let it be known that at the same time she fails to mention other ethnic and even multicultural sitcoms that demonstrate working class members of society all working within the scope of the median financial bracket that she seems to use as one of her foundational stepping stones for her diagnostic evaluations. Sitcoms like; ‘The Jeffersons’ – a spin-off from ‘All in the Family – depicting a working-class black man/family who “moved on up,” higher than his former neighbor Archie Bunker ever did. So much so, that he is depicted as the first successful black elite individual on prime-time television ever – owning five dry cleaning stores. George Jefferson was equally unflattering, racist, sexist, ignorant and coarse just as much as Archie was. And let us not forget the sitcom, ‘Sanford and Son’ – a sitcom that depicted a black junk dealer owning his own business; equally just as bigoted. All three protagonists were often pitted against antagonistic liberal enlighten college-going individuals.

Where is the color caste system there? Where is the sexist bigoted caste system in reference to the sitcom, ‘Maude,’ another spin-off to ‘All in the Family’ that depicted a strong-willed employed woman? And last, but not least, the sitcoms; ‘Barney Miller’ and ‘Taxi,’ which all displayed multicultural working class individuals. There are many examples of such, but for the sake of this article I will leave it at that. But pitting caste systems against caste systems by labeling racial titles that seem to sometimes be ambiguous, unless purposely looked for, simply defeats the purpose of synchronization, oneness and spiritual unity.

The book is also filled with anti-Trump rhetoric. Such rhetoric defeats the purpose of social class synchronization. Since social class synchronization and building bridges is the authors goal, why the political rant? It defeats the purpose of the book. We don’t need to know her political stance. Williams, in my opinion, needs to separate her well intended thoughts and views from her political opinions. Williams, while claiming to understand the misunderstandings and stigmatization of the “white working class,” at the same time chooses to categorize most of them as Trump supporters. Moreover, she sees the white working class as a people that were/are basically duped into supporting such an individual, due to his campaign speeches aimed at the white working class. This is simply not the case, the pigmentation of working class individuals was never an issue. How do I know this? Answer: Because I watched every campaign rally given by then Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Moreover, color is not an issue when it comes to basic employment; white or black.

According to Williams, our class polarization also stems from financial comparisons. This in turn causes internal conflicts between the two classes. However, she does not (“define class solely with reference to income,” Williams, p18-19). Instead, she sees it as a cultural gap. However, according to many reputable sites such as ‘Business Insider,’ “the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.” And this includes whites and blacks who fall within that median range.

Moreover many other sources agree with this statement, which is probably why Williams wisely uses the term “working class” as opposed to “middle class.” But if we were to take into consideration the very thought of a vanishing middle class into a poor working class, rather than a “white working-classs” then we might have a reasonble means of escape. An escape that bridges the divide between the rich and poor working class – white, black and Hispanics alike. With levels of poverty below the poor working class – again, white, black and Hispanics alike. Albeit, without the labels. And thus, perhaps eradicating the caste system. However, financial gaps do seem to exist between the races and sexes.

Yet many whites, blacks and Hispanics refuse to be labeled rich or poor – still holding on to the dignified title of “middle class.” Moreover, many resent the poor and elite, but admire the rich. Moreover, to the working-class, the poor never seem to appreciate the hand that feeds them. This may be due to an “entitlement” attitude that seems to be pervasive among the poor. “In surveys, more Americans still choose the term middle class when asked which category they belong to, because they do not want to identify as rich or poor, and because no new phrase exists to describe middle-income earners who view their social class as vulnerable. Working class, once associated with manufacturing jobs, now mostly connotes low-paying service jobs,” writes Chozick.

“Why does the working white class resent the poor?” And “Why does the working class resent professionals, but admire the rich?” In chapters three and four, Williams attributes both of these issues due to a ms-understood divide among the working class  professionals, and a ms-placed resentment of the poor, who always seem to get everything free, while they continually work hard to simply try to make ends meet. They see the poor as lazy people, who are concerned with nothing but obtaining government free-bes, like an Obama phone, while they can hardly pay for their own cell phone bills. They see their hard earned taxes going to the lazy, who they view as individuals that do nothing more than cheat the system, wait for their benefits – via welfare or SSI checks – to simply run out and buy their beer, cigarettes or even drugs. They are angered at the fact that the poor do not have to pay one thin dime for healthcare. While in the meantime working-class health premiums keep rising. But this too is sometimes a misunderstanding. Not all poor people are lazy, beer drinkers, smokers or government cheats. Some genuinely need the assistance. But, exceptions to this do exist.

With reference to the elite, the elites assume that the working class wants their position. This is not always the case. But it does cause a mistrust between the two. The working class, most of the times, are quite content to be the labor force. They are also content to be able to give time to themselves and simply live life joyfully. As they see them, more important priorities like; family, religion and traditional values, play an important but part in their lives. Many working class citizens see the pursuit of wealth, or the positions of the elite, as something not to be coveted. But as Williams points out (‘this resentment of professionals does not extend to the rich. There’s a desire among the working class to see a rich person from the upper class reach out to them,” Williams, p28-29).

But as Williams points out, the working class is stuck between the two; the professionals who beat them daily with mundane physical tasks, and the rich; who they consider too far to even reach their potential to equality with them. So it really doesn’t matter to the working-class what the rich are doing, whether good or bad, more or less. Because after all, “It’s the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” For many working-class citizens to become a member of the professionals you almost have to adopt a totally new way of life style (“a two-facedness,” Williams, p33-35). But bridging the gap between the two is difficult. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult. If the two classes can begin to understand where the other was coming from, and learn to accept and respect each other for who they are – individuals providing a good thing for both; a position, a job and income, that in turn would present itself as a common goal – thus ending the gap. But that can only come about by working together. However, there is always the need to excel, and that can either come by two means, or both; hard work and a good education.

A good education is sometimes hard to come by for the working-class. Considering college, or succeeding in it, also varies when it comes to the working-class. The mere fact that they are of the working-class immediately puts them at a disadvantage – not being rich enough to attend ivy universities. (“Part of this is geographical,” Williams p42-44). Similarly, Williams writes, (“There is a caste system. It takes Americans who grew up in different social strata and it widens the divisions between them,” Williams p42-44). Moreover, according to Williams some kids aren’t suited to intellectual work. Furthermore, they may be a lot of reasons why most professional class kids end up going to college and some working-class kids simply don’t. But it basically all boils down to financial abilities or either choosing work or an education. Often times the juggling of the two is difficult. Many fail.

Many sometimes fail due to white progressive law makers and liberal elites who white working-class citizens feel abandoned by. They not only feel scorned, but they also realize that those who were supposed to represent them provide no policy solutions. This also includes various unions. Moreover, racism and sexism plays no small part in this scenario. (“Let’s state right up front that racism is an issue in the white working class, and it goes way back,” Williams, p53-54). It’s an issue, but I don’t think it’s an issue conducted on purpose. it may due to the reasons stated earlier; demographics, education and so forth. Sexism also plays a role. Though, again it may not be done purposely. It would appear that white-working class people do not feel privileged. They feel belittled. Often, they feel ridiculed and stereotyped. This attitude comes from elite white people. Williams contention is that racism itself exists, even among whites onto whites. How much more then does it exist with working class black people and females in general? Unfortunately quite a bit as far as marginal gaps go, and this includes sexism.

(“Among whites, the bread-winner role unites men, but stay at home motherhood devides women. For working-class white women, becoming a homemaker signals a rise to status, not for herself, but for her entire family. But for the PME women, becoming a stay-at-home mother entails a fall from status,” Williams p65-67). This is is an odd juxtaposition. One class of women is happy, the other class is disappointed. Like Seneca, the ancient philosopher of antiquity; who knew all about caste systems, anger and the beast within, Williams gives no policy solutions either. There are no moral or ethical solutions in her book. As a culture and society we must learn not to ostracize the races and/or sexes due to positional status, but instead instill in all of them/us a sense of self worth and dignity. Again, bridging the gap socially and Spiritually. I believe this can be done though Logocracy. For more information on “Logocracy” see the article; ‘The Logocracy and the End of Capitalism: A New Paradigm Shift of the Social Sciences of Politiics’